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Madhya Pradesh redraws plan for 10 wildlife sanctuaries after MLAs, villagers object

Hindustan Times, Bhopal | ByRanjan Srivastava
Oct 06, 2019 06:04 PM IST

According to the forest department, the state has six tiger reserves, 10 national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh, which are poorly connected to each other resulting in increase in human-animal conflict.

Under pressure from lawmakers and villagers, the Madhya Pradesh forest department has decided to reduce the area of 10 green corridors to connect tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in the state by one third.

According to the forest department, the state has six tiger reserves, 10 national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh, which are poorly connected to each other resulting in increase in human-animal conflict.

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The forest department had planned to development 10 sanctuaries in the state to facilitate easier movement of wildlife from one habitat to another and to have more homes for animals. The plan, forest minister Umang Singhar said, would also reduce territorial fights and casualties.

“Since Madhya Pradesh has regained its status of the tiger state as per All India Tiger Estimation Report, 2018 it’s imperative on us to undertake immediate and effective measures to protect animals,” Singhar said. “The sanctuaries will not only provide a safe corridor for tigers to move from one tiger reserve to another in the event of any territorial fight or otherwise but will also protect jungles and entire wildlife in those areas.”

The forest department had planned new sanctuaries in Sheopur, Burhanpur, Sehore, Sagar, Narsinghpur, Dhar, Indore-Khargone, Harda, Mandla and Chhindwara districts. The total average area for each of the sanctuary is about 1500 sq kilometers but the plan has quickly run into opposition.

Sunita Patel, Congress MLA from Gadarwara constituency in Narsinghpur district - where Indira Gandhi sanctuary is proposed to be created - said, “I have refused to accept the plan. For, a large number of villages are being affected.”

Congress MLA from Niwas (ST) assembly constituency in Mandla Dr Ashok Marskole is among several lawmakers who have protested the move.

“We will not give a single inch of land for any sanctuary,” he said and added that their protest was not against development but the way sanctuaries were planned to “displace” tribals.

He also said the tribals in Mandla were feeling pangs of displacement as close to 180 villages have already been relocated due to half a dozen developmental projects there. Other legislators have also cited local reasons for opposing the move.

The forest minister said that they cannot overlook the concerns raised by people and have therefore, decided to reduce the area of these sanctuaries by one-third.

“Our resolve is to create sanctuaries but save people also (from displacement)). Hence, we will redraw the boundary of the sanctuaries in such a way that it doesn’t affect any village or villagers,” Singhar said.

However, independent MLA from Burhanpur where Mahatma Gandhi sanctuary is to be created said, “I welcome the plan. However, this should be done only after proper rehabilitation of the affected villagers.”

Wildlife expert former chief conservator of forest Jagdish Chandra said, “A tiger doesn’t understand the boundaries created by us. Hence, there is more need to protect jungles than creating sanctuaries. If jungles are protected and regenerated, it will automatically lead to less territorial fights among the tigers and thus fewer casualties.”

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